With a few weeks of Canadian Premier League play now in the books, we’ve witnessed the emergence of some nascent narratives.
But in sport—as in any great storytelling medium—the next stage is never certain. In that spirit, allow us to introduce the first edition of Wednesday Wonders, a mid-week check-in on the burning questions around CPL, along with some stabs at what the answers might be.
And unlike Game of Thrones, there’s no need for spoiler alerts here, as these next chapters are all yet to be written.
Is Cavalry FC for real?
The Cavs look like the kings of CPL so far, with three wins from three games, including a remarkable last-second road victory over Forge FC on Sunday amidst difficult playing conditions in Hamilton.
There was always a good chance that Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s side would start hot, given their pre-existing familiarity; nearly half of the roster was together under Wheeldon at Calgary Foothills last year.
Up against an inexperienced and injury-hit Pacific FC squad in Wednesday night’s Canadian Championship opener, Cavalry could be set to establish themselves as the Spring champions-in-waiting.
Either way, with other CPL clubs coalescing more strongly every single week, we’ll have to wait and see whether Wheeldon’s crew is truly built for the long haul.
Speaking of tonight…
Will the Cup provide a reset button?
The quest for the Voyageurs Cup begins with a trio of first-round matches—Cavalry vs. Pacific, York9 vs. PLSQ champions AS Blainville and HFX Wanderers FC vs. League1 Ontario champions Vaughan Azzurri.
While Pacific and Wanderers both enjoyed raucous and successful home openers in league play, and Y9 was part of league history (with Ryan Telfer notching the first-ever CPL goal), all three clubs have yet to find game-over-game consistency.
A slight change of pace—which, in the case of Wanderers and Y9, entails playing against non-CPL opposition—could provide a chance to right the ship for the remainder of the spring season.
Will the real Forge FC please stand up?
Pegged as a frontrunner in most preseason prognostications, Forge has thus far proven hot and cold. A tough road test against Valour FC on Thursday will go a long way in determining their odds at claiming the Spring season crown.
The team’s duality can perhaps be best encapsulated by their goalkeeping situation: Triston Henry took charge in the club’s first two matches, before Quillan Roberts posted the team’s first-ever clean sheet vs. Pacific, then looked vulnerable at times against Cavalry. Who’ll get the nod in Winnipeg?
Then there’s incumbent captain Kyle Bekker, set to return to the lineup after serving a two-match suspension. With teammates Emery Welshman and Tristan Borges gaining momentum from scoring their first league goals in the interim, the injection of Bekker’s hard-nosed playmaking could bring a dangerous edge to Forge’s attack.
On the other hand, the absence of head coach Bobby Smyrniotis, who was sent off at the end of Sunday’s loss to Cavalry, might prove to be the difference.
Who’ll surge in the Golden Boot race?
So far, we’ve seen 23 league goals from 22 different goal scorers, with Forge’s Kadell Thomas being the only player to bag more than one. And while sharing the goal-scoring wealth fits perfectly with the Canadian stereotype of politeness, the time will surely come when someone hits a hot streak.
We’ve seen players like Randy Edwini-Bonsu (FC Edmonton) and Michael Petrasso (Valour) catch fire earlier in their careers, while the quality of their CPL goals suggests that the likes of Borges (Forge) and Simon Adjei (Y9) could be in for big things.
And while they haven’t found the back of the net yet, Marcus Haber (Pacific) and Ali Musse (Valour) are among the league leaders in shots.
One thing’s for sure: the “goals for everyone” trend can’t continue indefinitely. But who’ll step up and take charge? We’ll likely begin to find out this week.
Who’s on Herdman’s radar for the Gold Cup?
The CONCACAF Gold Cup kicks off in one month, and with 40-man provisional rosters likely to drop soon, one wonders which CPL players could fit into Canadian head coach John Herdman’s plans.
Eight current CPLers—Marcel de Jong (Pacific), Nik Ledgerwood (Cavalry), Kwame Awuah (Forge), Marco Bustos (Valour), Nicolas Galvis (Valour), David Choinière (Forge), Petrasso (Valour) and Haber (Pacific)—were on Canada’s provisional roster two years ago, ahead of the 2017 Gold Cup.
Though de Jong is out for the season and Haber is nursing a toe injury at the moment, Herdman does have some options before him on CPL rosters. In particular, Canada could use reinforcements on the defensive end at the moment, meaning that players like Kadin Chung (Pacific), Luca Gasparotto (Y9) or Amer Didic (FCE) could find themselves back in the national-team mix.
Herdman has certainly shown himself willing to give new players an opportunity to shine at the national-team level, meaning that this week could be a final Gold Cup roster audition for players across the league.